A Joyous Letter Speaks of War’s End

A Joyous Letter Speaks of War’s End

The Great War was ending so New York City went wild, from its harbors to churches and streets and skyscrapers. The electric charge of that moment can still be felt a century later in a letter from Captain John F. Sweeney of the 15th Precinct in Manhattan, who described the scene to one of his men serving overseas.

A police officer at 14th Street and Third Avenue called the station house at 3:30 a.m. to say that he had spotted an extra edition — that era’s version of a news alert — announcing the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

“At 4:15 the first steam whistle was going, to be followed by another, first from one section of the city and then another, then the church bells to peal out the wonderful news, heads began to appear from the windows and people would say, hey cop, what is it all about,” Captain Sweeney wrote, breathless in punctuation, “and if I answered one, I answered 150 that the war was over.”

Captain Sweeney served 41 years in the city police department. He later went on to become the first chief of police in Long Beach on Long Island.

“There are quite a few of the girlies on second av anxiously inquiring for you,” he advised Officer Zwerling, “and I think when you return I’ll have to send you out with a chaperone for a while or some one of them will hook you up.”

Jack Begg contributed research.

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